July is the month for fireworks both on and off the water. As temperatures rise with summer setting in, a focus on our awesome Juvenile Tarpon fishing will get kayak anglers the thrill they are seeking. It is an easy call to equate these enthusiastic, aerial display, hard fighting fish with well- planned fireworks show. These 5–30-pound versions of the monsters found seasonally off East Central Florida’s coast are a great way to sharpen your skills at not only hooking them but also keeping tarpon on the hook.
The term “bow to the king” has been used for years describing a method of bowing or dipping your rod creating slack in the line while your hooked tarpon twists and contorts as it hurls itself skyward. This point in your fight is the most critical for keeping that hook planted and landing your prize. The tarpon is well known for their ability to send your hook or hook covered lure flying back in your direction as they jump, and they always jump. There is little doubt that it is very hard to do the exact thing you’ve learned your entire fishing life not to do. Putting slack in the line is the kiss of death when in a fish fight typically resulting in your hooked prey becoming nothing but a fish story about the one that got away.
If you are lucky enough to subdue your prize tarpon and have it kayak side the best way to land the fish is lipping it like a bass. Their mouth is not full of teeth but has a rough sandpaper like feel. Nets tend to not hold up well with the bursts of speed they can generate, and I have had several of them blow holes right in the net. Lip grippers are a common tool to use for landing fish however they are not so great for landing tarpon due to their less than calm domineer and the lip grippers unyielding nature. The grippers can and will do some damage whereas with your hand you can release your grip quickly and reset.
Standard river tackle is great for these scrappy fish and your leaders should be in the 30lb range to deal with their rough lips. Fly rods are also a great way to have a blast with these awesome fish. Small lures/flys imitating baitfish and white in color are hard to beat. Live baits like small mullet and mud minnows will be the surest bet for getting not only hits but solid hookups. Look to the backwaters and canals keeping a sharp eye out for the tell tail roll that gives away the presence of tarpon.